HUNTINGTON – Ford was glossing over the safety records of its vehicles when it asked a West Virginia federal judge to dismiss class action lawsuits filed against it this year, attorneys suing the company are claiming.

Attorneys representing proposed classes who filed the lawsuits responded to Ford’s motion to dismiss on Sept. 20, arguing the company is forgetting to mention internal reports that show their cars were subject to unintended acceleration.

“Defendant Ford Motor Company grasps at straws in its Motion to Dismiss in an effort to downplay the substantial threat to consumer and public safety presented by certain of its model year 2002-2010 vehicles, which caused Plaintiffs to pay more for their cars than they should have paid,” the response says.

“Plaintiffs have more than adequately pleaded that this threat is the result of a design defect that has uniformly deprived each Plaintiff of the benefit of his or her bargain with Ford: Plaintiffs bargained for safe vehicles that start and stop upon proper application of the accelerator and brake pedals, but instead received vehicles that were at risk (without warning) of experiencing sudden unintended acceleration that cannot be controlled by normal braking.”

Some complaints against Ford have been consolidated in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, while another remains in South Carolina federal court.

The complaints do not allege any physical injuries. Instead, they say purchasers of Ford vehicles would not have bought them – or paid as much – if they knew the vehicles had sudden acceleration problems.

Ford filed its motion to dismiss on June 27. It says the plaintiffs seek damages because the vehicles lack a particular driver-assistance feature known as Brake-Throttle Override, which depowers the engine if the gas pedal is trapped by a floor mat and the driver hits the brake.

Ford says it never marketed the vehicles at issue as having a BTO feature.

“Copious internal Ford reports and documents show that immediately after Ford introduced the throttle control electronics at issue, models so equipped began experiencing sudden, uncontrollable accelerations in large numbers,” the plaintiffs attorneys wrote.

“Although Ford knew that the diagnostic trouble codes in these models that were supposed to detect these dangerous malfunctions were failing to do so, it never warned its owners about this dangerous possibility, or about the measures that must be taken immediately in such an emergency to prevent a catastrophic outcome.”

The company recently agreed to pay $17.35 million to settle an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency.

The NHTSA alleged Ford took too long to recal Escapes that could have defects that cause unintended acceleration. Ford recalled 423,000 Escapes in 2012.

Ford denied it broke any laws in the settlement agreement.

Two West Virginia attorneys have been asked to be named interim co-lead counsel. They are Timothy Bailey of Bucci, Bailey Javins and Niall A. Paul of Spilman Thomas & Battle, both of Charleston.

They are joined in their request by Adam J. Levitt of Grant & Eisenhofer in Chicago; Stephen M. Gorny of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny in Leawood, Kan.; and Mark DiCello of The DiCello Law Firm in Mentor, Ohio.

Charleston attorney Edgar F. Heiskell III is asking to be a part of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.

Others asking to be placed on the PSC are John T. Murray of Murray and Murray in Sandusky, Ohio; John Scarola of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Joseph J. Siprut of Siprut PC in Chicago; Keith G. Bremer of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara in Newport Beach, Calif.; E. Powell Miller of The Miller Law Firm in Rochester, Mich.; Grant L. Davis of Davis Bethune & Jones in Kansas City, Mo.; and Gregory M. Travalio of Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor in Columbus, Ohio.

Lincoln and Mercury vehicles from the same years are included in the complaints.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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